I appreciate your insights on your blog, may God bless you for your work! I have a peculiar situation I am facing, and I wondered if you might have any advice. I apologize in advance for the length of this e-mail.
I have been attending a local approved Tridentine Mass for several months and have developed a great love for the Extra-Ordinary Form of the Mass. After some months of attending the TLM, my former parish got a new pastor, who is a great young priest, very solid and orthodox, and a good man.
I was hoping that my husband and kids could perhaps begin attending the TLM. My husband would not have objected, I don't think, but for the fact of a new development that seriously complicates the matter: the new priest is my husband's brother! This complicates the matter a bit, as I'm sure you will agree.
My brother's family members are also all parishioners at this Novus Ordo church, and they all seem quite excited about the opportunity to spiritually rebuild the parish, which has been adrift in a modernist mentality for some time.
So I figured I would help out as best I could. I volunteered to teach RCIA. I started leading a Rosary group before the Masses. I have even helped plan a major parish mission.
The problem I am facing is that the liturgy is really a source of discontentment for me. Week after week, it is just dismal, especially after being at the TLM for several months. The state of the liturgy, instead of being worshipful and uplifting, is consistently depressing. It has been several years now, and we have seen almost no change to the liturgies.
I want to stress that my husband's brother is a fine priest. Intellectually he sees the importance of renewing the Novus Ordo liturgy by conforming it more to the reverent and dignified way it is celebrated in the TLM. In fact, he has even expressed his willingness to learn the TLM -- eventually -- and to have one Tridentine Mass here at least on a weekly basis on Sundays. I do believe he is sincere in this desire.
So I have approached him with several ideas. I mentioned that I had contacted some priests who were willing to train him in the old liturgy. I offered to start a Latin Mass Society, an altar guild, to help raise financial support that he might need, and even to help by teaching a class to help acquaint parishioners with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
His response was to put me off by saying he didn't have time right now, or that there were too many parishioners who would be upset by an introduction of the older form of the liturgy.
This response was very hard for me to accept. I understand that priests are busy in all sorts of ways administering a parish, capital campaigns, parish schools, etc. I also appreciate that he is doing much to improve the quality of spiritual life in the parish, like beginning Perpetual Adoration for several days per week.
The problem I find is that any time anyone (not just I) proposes a change to the liturgy in a traditional direction -- such as the introduction of the Agnus Dei in Latin, or Boy only altar servers, he says that he just doesn't have time right now, or that those in the pews couldn't deal with such changes right now.
Of course, much of what he says is true. When such changes were proposed in the past, many of the parishioners rebelled and threatened to stop attending Masses anymore. Given these circumstances, not to mention the fact that his bishop is not especially interested in liturgical renewal and often gets frustrated with my brother-in-law for trying to change things for the better, I understand how my brother-in-law may find himself in a tough spot.
However, so am I. As a mother, I have young children of an age impressionable enough to be influenced by parishioner attitudes of irreverence and indifferentism at Mass, but not yet old enough to understand the historical and cultural reasons for the current state of affairs in the Church, let alone a proper grasp of the theology underlying the Mass. So I am deeply concerned for their need to attend a proper and reverent and holy Mass, whether it is a Novus Ordo Mass or TLM.
Given that it will apparently take many years before anyone can "fix" the liturgy at my brother-in-law's parish, and given the fact that we have been members there almost four years now, I am seriously contemplating asking my husband to transfer with me to the TLM parish. I realize how problematic this will inevitably be, given all the family ties we have to my husband's family here at this parish. Yet I feel that I have done all I can to help with the "renewal" of our parish here, all without much effect, I'm sad to say. I feel I'm at a point now where we need to make a decision based on the spiritual welfare of our children.
I don’t know whether my husband will understand or agree with my reasoning, particularly now since his brother is our parish priest. I am not even sure he will be open to my reasoning, since he has only attended the TLM a few times with me and is not particularly interested in details of theology and liturgy. As you know, those without much exposure to the TLM tend to dismiss those who love it and who protest liturgical abuses in the Novus Ordo as "overly reactionary." My husband could very well share that sort of reaction.
My brother-in-law, the priest, feels that the way to change the liturgy is by converting the parishioners. If we do that, he says, the liturgy will "take care of itself." I'm inclined to be a bit less sanguine about "converting" the parish, particularly after years of trying to help "fix" it, apparently to little avail. At this point I'm inclined to think that if the liturgy could be repaired at all, even incrementally, by being brought more into conformity with liturgical tradition, that this would help to nourish and convert the parishioners. Isn't that what Pope Benedict suggested about the cross-fertilizing influence of the TLM on the Novus Ordo?
My question to you is: Which approach do you think is right? If you think I am mistaken in any of my judgments, please tell me how and why I am wrong. If you think I am right, on the other hand, then what sort of insights would you suggest I present to my brother-in-law to convince him of my position?
Friday, April 08, 2011
A reader solicits advice
A reader recently contacted me and posed the following conundrum, to which I replied that I had no clear or easy answer. The reader has given me permission, however, to post the message (with details pulled to retain anonymity) to see if other readers may have helpful suggestions. (I do request that you keep suggestions serious and courteous, if you do wish to offer any advice.) Also, I think it may be edifying for a wider audience of readers to be aware of just what sorts of challenges are faced by those trying to live out their lives faithfully as Catholics in the "trenches" these days: